The Bad Men Project

If you’ve managed to avoid the Good Men Project thus far, lucky you. I only learned about them recently due to the shitstorm they’ve managed to stir up by being bleeding idiots.  It started with an essay called, “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too.”  I wish the writer was being sarcastic, but alas no, under the guise of discussing why rapists rape the article goes on to claim exactly what the title says.  Rather than retracting and apologizing and doing the soul-searching that ought to follow such a ridiculousness, they then followed it up with a second piece by an admitted (but non-convicted) rapist about how consent is just so confusing and labeling people who rape as bad people and, well, rapists is just not fair.  For a good description and rebuke of the piece, complete with the article itself in quotes, check out the following, but be wary of triggers as it’s full of rape-apologism and awfulness:

And just when you thought the Good Men Project couldn’t get any worse….

I wrote this in the comments section, but in case you don’t want to wade through the many, many outraged responses, here are some of my own thoughts on it, and on the issue in question:

Once upon a time, alcohol and other substances enabled me to do dangerous, irresponsible, and stupid things that I was able to rationalize or convince myself weren’t that bad, but it didn’t put any ideas in my head. Nothing came out that wasn’t already there, which is why I never raped anyone. As for the things I did do, part of my recovery is taking responsibility for them and recognizing that there is a difference between an explanation and an excuse. The explanation is that I am an addict, but there are no excuses.

This guy claims to be only offering an explanation, but the fact that he mentions his victim’s behavior (“actually flirting”) and that she later entered recovery screams victim-blaming and undermines any possible claim he could have on rationality. As if either of those facts have anything to do with what he did to her. Moreover, the fact that he still questions whether he’s a rapist despite the fact that she straight-up told him speaks to a complete disregard for his victim’s experience and humanity. The comparison to his friend’s experience? BS. Yeah, he made a different call: the wrong one.

I know plenty of women who got sober after being assaulted or raped, sometimes as a result of the experience. They realized they were putting themselves in danger by being vulnerable around guys like this one, but they are also clear on the fact that just because you’re vulnerable doesn’t mean anyone has to take advantage of you. Forgetting to lock your door doesn’t make anyone rob you, and the fact that you learn a lesson from it and never forget again doesn’t retroactively excuse the burglary.

Though inadvertently, the essay in question does bring up one point that I do find interesting and worth discussing, and that’s the vulnerability and perceived un-rape-ability of addicts.  Between the common dehumanization of alcoholics and drug users as a whole and the (reasonable) perception of them as liars, addicts make the ideal rape victims (this is particularly true when they also belong to other “un-rape-able” groups such as sex workers or women of color, who are in turn perceived as likely addicts).  Sexual assault is all too often seen as the “natural” consequence of intoxication for women, and for people who struggle with addiction this is even more potent; rape is understood as the punishment for their lack of self-control and discipline.  What’s ironic is that so frequently it is the other way around: many people of both genders develop addictions in response to experiences sexual assault and/or childhood sexual abuse.  Based on my own anecdotal understanding, I would venture that most women and a substantial proportion of men who suffer from addiction have experienced some form of sexual trauma.

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s going on with the GMP and the responses to their rape-apologism, here are a few pertinent links. I particularly recommend the first one, and the Yes Means Yes blog and book in general. I kept the later in my bathroom for months and it’s awesome.

Good Men Project’s Rape Faceplant

What In Holy Hell is This

Nonsense at the Good Men Project

The Good Men Who Only Occasionally Rape Project

December

I’m very ambivalent about this time of year.  On the one hand, Christmas music eating my airwaves.  On the other, top ten lists! I’m going to try and do a few of my own this time around, but nothing obvious like best movies or songs (not sure I even saw more than 10 movies from 2012).  Something interesting and off-beat. I have one idea already, and that’s most redundant headlines.  Though really the only reason I would do it would be so I could give this one the top spot: “Horrible Father Throws Baby Off Bridge.”  Yeah.  I can’t find the link to the article, but I promise it exists, or did anyway.  So, any thoughts on others that should make the list?

My Hero

“I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.”

-Patrick Stewart (via Shevilfempire)

Racism and Denial

I’m a big fan of podcasts, they make all the time I spend on public transportation ineffably more tolerable, and in particular I’m always trying out different football podcasts, looking for that perfect blend of entertainment and analysis. Last night I decided to try one called “God Save the Prem,” which turned out to be three USAmerican guys talking heatedly about the EPL. It wasn’t great but it held my attention well enough, they seemed to know what they were talking about (aside from the somewhat strange references to Leeds United as a “small club”) and certainly had strong opinions, which always makes for good listening in my view.

I was planning to subscribe and make it one of my regulars until they got to the topic of racism, unfortunately unavoidable these days if you’re talking about England and football. I always brace myself whenever such discussions begin, but so far I’ve generally been happily surprised by the mature and thoughtful discourse on the podcasts I listen to regularly. Sadly, not so this time. One of the participants claimed that football fans, Chelsea fans specifically, don’t know what they’re doing when they make monkey noises at black players, that they do so out of ignorance. Well, that was the end of my listening. Of course they know what they’re doing; the idea that they don’t is denial bordering on delusion. After the recent brouhaha over Kick it Out t-shirts, the English outrage over the racist behavior of Serbian fans (recently and in 2007!), John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, Louis Suarez and Patrice Evra, and the banning of numerous fans of numerous clubs in recent years from watching football because of their racist behavior, the idea that any English football fan could somehow still not realize the implications of shouting monkey noises is ludicrous. They know how offensive and inflammatory it is: why else would they do it?

I find it particularly telling that no one on any of the British podcasts I listen to has suggested such a thing, and I’ve been thinking about why that might be so. I don’t know enough about British racial politics to come to any definitive conclusions, but one idea I’ve had is that white USAmericans are deeply wedded to the idea that our country is a place of equality and equal opportunity: witness the popularity of so-called “colorblindness.” The fact that we have an amazing capacity for denial when it comes to inequality, racial and otherwise, is well-established. The possibility that people can knowingly and consciously be racist, people who should and do know better, challenges that denial. Furthermore, it connotes guilt in a way that ignorance doesn’t.  Ignorant people can’t be held fully accountable for their behavior; following that logic, one can even go so far as to blame people of color for not sufficiently “educating” their oppressors. Voila, no one white has to feel bad or take responsibility for the past centuries and continuing occurrence of race-based oppression. Self-aware racists can’t just be let off the hook that way though, and if they are guilty, then what about the rest of us, who continue to accept this racial status quo?

Perhaps white Brits have no such fantasy, or at least are less bull-headedly committed to it. I’m not saying there’s less racism in England; maybe there is, maybe there isn’t  I don’t know. I am wondering if it is a different kind, if it doesn’t hide behind a myth of equality the way USAmerican racism so often does. I’ve been told that Great Britain is a much more class-conscious society than the US (admittedly not a difficult feat) and that they are not as committed to believing in the potential for upward mobility and meritocracy as we are. Maybe that awareness of inequality extends to race as well. It’s just an idea; the one thing I know for sure is that I won’t be listening to that podcast again.

Thought Crimes

Something that really aggravates me is when people say hate crime legislation punishes people for their thoughts, for what’s in their heads.  First of all, hate crime laws aren’t the only laws that do so: how about possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute? What is intent if not another word for thoughts? And how about the distinction we make between manslaughter and murder? Again, thoughts!  So punishing people for thinking certain thoughts is hardly unprecedented or unheard of in our legal system.

Secondly though, I don’t think that’s really what hate crime laws are punishing.  When we declare someone guilty of a crime, we do it on the basis of the effects of their actions, not their intentions (thus manslaughter is a crime and victim impact statements exist).  When someone commits a hate crime, the effects are far larger than those of the same actions committed randomly, because there are repercussions for a much larger number of people.  An act of random or personal violence impacts the victim and generally those close to them (family, friends, etc.).  Perhaps in an abstract or indirect way the people physically or geographically close to the crime are affected (higher crime rates affecting property values, for instance), but that’s about it.

A bias crime, however, involves everyone who shares the characteristic(s) of the victim that led to their being targeted.  When one person is attacked because of their religion or race or sexuality, it makes everyone else of that religion, race, or sexuality more aware of their difference and the ways it puts them at risk.  It reminds them of their marginalization.

Along with the psychological effects, there can be physical consequences too: it is a well-established fact that stress is bad for one’s health, leading to heart disease among other problems (which is why African-Americans have higher rates of hypertension and heart attacks than comparable whites), and what could be more stressful than being perpetually primed for attack?  Human bodies aren’t meant to be constantly on guard, and doing so is rough on them.  There are lifestyle consequences as well: members of the targeted population change how they live in ways both large and small, from taking cabs more often to moving cities, in an effort to protect themselves.

Shouldn’t someone who triggers all this be punished for it?  Shouldn’t they be held accountable for all the lives they’ve touched?  Are these really such difficult and complicated questions?

Kate Middleton’s Nipples

Okay, I admit it – I couldn’t resist a peak at the Kate Middleton photos. You know the ones I mean. Even though it was out of curiosity more than anything else (really!), I’m definitely not proud and a little embarrassed (not enough not to write this though, apparently).  Anyway, I have to say my reaction was somewhat less than scandalized.  The invasion of privacy and all that, yes, definitely scandalizing, but the pictures themselves? Left me wondering A) what’s the big deal about nipples? Because pretty much everything else is visible in a bikini, so they must be what all the shock-and-awe is about, yet, unlike some body parts, literally all of us have them (for further reference, see “nipplegate”), and B) don’t people ever get tired of looking at identical female bodies? From the neck down, Kate Middleton could be pretty much any white female celebrity or model.  She has a fine body, an attractive one even, but looking at it I couldn’t help but feel like I’d seen it a million times before, even though this was technically the first time.  You’ve seen one uber-thin, long-limbed woman, you’ve seen ‘em all.  Of course, it’s different when it’s an actual person rather than a media construct imposed upon one; affection transforms many things, among them the beloved’s body, which becomes something precious and fascinatingly unique no matter its contours.  Without that though, the constant parade of indistinguishable female flesh becomes just…tiresome.  Looking at those photos really brought that home to me.

I suppose that’s not why the pictures were taken or why the photographer was able to sell them for however much they were though: it was about the shiver of surprise people get from seeing an icon in the flesh and realizing she’s actually human and in the grand scheme of things not all that different from themselves, just as hostage to her physicality.  Or maybe it was about an illicit thrill of seeing someone who’d been so carefully packaged and presented to the world without all the trimmings (debatable as that is: is she really free of them in the images in question? Can she ever be?).  Whatever it was, it was definitely more complicated than a simple hunger for more female nudity.  It’s not like anyone is starved for that in this day and age.  What people are hungry for, what I was hungry for, was something else.  The question I’m still mulling over is what.